Al Ross, Busted in 1998, is Back in the Game With a New DFS Site

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And his betting kiosks are coming to a sports bar near you

  • Ross’ kiosks already allowing folks to legally wager on Daily Fantasy Sports in local sports bars in portions of Ohio with Pete Rose the face of FanDaction
  • One of these betting kiosks will be available in a sports bar across the street from the Cincinnati Reds stadium
  • Ross was among the so-called “Internet 21”, the first sweeping series of indictments against online gambling operators in 1998
  • Ross only received house arrest and had to pay a small fine thanks in no small part to his famed Mob attorney Oscar Goodman

AKRON, Ohio -- It won't be long before you will be able to go into your local sports bar and, utilizing a small betting kiosk there, legally wager on daily fantasy sports.

The kiosks are the brainchild of Allen Ross, owner of the new DFS site, and already a handful of the kiosks are up and running in Ross' home state of Ohio.

One such kiosk will soon be in a sports bar across the street from the Cincinnati Reds' stadium.

As many as 1,000 sports bars across the USA will be installing similar fanDaction betting kiosks in the coming months, according to Ross, 57, who appears to have gotten in on the ground floor of a booming new industry that could make him millions of dollars.

If the name Al Ross sounds familiar, it's because he was a member of the so-called "Internet 21," the first group of online bookies and casino operators to be busted by U.S. authorities, back in 1998.

Ross was running Island Casino then, an offshore sportsbook based in Willemstad, Curacao.

He turned himself in after being charged and with the help of his attorney, famed mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, pled guilty to a felony and avoided prison, getting only a fine and house arrest.

Now he's running DFS site, plotting the installation of hundreds of betting kiosks nationwide and, most recently, hiring former Cincinnati Reds star Pete Rose, who's banned from baseball for betting, to shill for and be the celebrity face of fanDaction.

Gambling 911 earlier this week caught up with Ross at his Ohio home, where he runs fanDaction, and asked him about a wide variety of subjects, including his new company fanDaction, his old company Island Casino, his "Internet 21" arrest and the status of his son Denny, who's doing a life sentence in prison for rape and murder.

Here is a transcript of that interview:

Gambling 911: Can you tell us a little about fanDaction?

Al Ross: FanDuel and DraftKings, their games are based on salary caps. Their whole business is to take a season-long fantasy player and convert him to gamble and play every day. Hard sell, but they're doing a hell of a job. We have a salary cap game like them, but my goal is to take the gambler and create games to make them want to play fantasy sports. All my games, other than the salary cap games, are geared for a gambler. Smaller games, heads-up, using people's knowledge, not necessarily just their stats, for determining who they are going to play. Anybody who gambles on sports will love my Pick 5 games, especially the games they can play against Pete, like with five pitching matchups. A gambler, that's all he makes his bets on, based on pitchers. There's a big market out there, the gambling market. It's harder nowadays to get money offshore to gamble. We have a variety of things. We have horse racing, which FanDuel and DraftKings don't have. We have first- and second-half fantasy contests, which nobody has. Just a lot of different things to appeal to a lot of different people.

G9: How long has fanDaction been around?

AR: We've been around since last November, but really hadn't done much until we launched with Pete (a few weeks ago). Our biggest marketing, however, is going to be putting kiosks in sports bars all across the country, where people will be able to play in private contests, right there, against their foes, which also gives me an avenue of getting to the gamblers not just online. We're in three bars in Ohio. We have a kiosk going in a bar right by the Reds' stadium in about two weeks. We have a distributor network that we're setting up and we're going to put them everywhere. We hope to have by this time next year 500 to 1,000 bars.

G9: Some people will recognize your name from the "Internet 21" busts in 1998 of 21 owners and operators of a half-dozen Caribbean-based online and bet-by-phone sportsbooks and online casinos. You, Mike Saul and Orrin Sleeper ran Island Casino, an offshore sportsbook and casino that was based in Willemstad, the capital city of Dutch-owned island nation Curacao, and all three of you were charged with violating the Federal Wire Act of 1961, which banned interstate and international gambling over phone lines. What do you remember about that bust?

AR: On the day it happened, we were in the process of moving our operations from Curacao to Costa Rica. I was in Costa Rica and I got a phone call from a friend telling me you're on TV. I was on national news in the U.S. It was my birthday. It was a great birthday present. So I hired the best attorney, Oscar Goodman, who later became the mayor of Las Vegas. He arranged for me to turn myself in in New York, which I did a few days later. A small bond was set by the judge. I ended up pleading guilty to a felony. They offered me a deal, they wanted me to rat people out, tell what I knew about others. I said, do I look like a rat? I wouldn't do it. I said thank-you but no thank-you. I got a $20,000 fine and six months house arrest. I spent a quarter-million dollars on legal fees.

G9: Your son, Denny, is serving a life sentence in prison after being convicted of rape and murder in Ohio some years ago. How is he doing? Do you ever get to see him?

AR: I see him every month, talk to him twice every day. We're in Federal Appeals Court, and it's a battle. What are you going to do? Two years from now, we'll hear from the judge. He's maintained his innocence from Day One. He will be eligible for parole in 2045. I'll be dead.

G9: Do you know and/or keep in touch with any fellow "Internet 21" members?

AR: Mike Saul has been my best friend for over 40 years, I talk to him every day. He lives in Florida and unfortunately is in very poor health. And I know Jay Cohen (who co-owned World Sports Exchange). I've talked to him a few times on the phone. But not lately.

G9: Do you know LeBron James? You both live in Akron.

AR: I wish. No, I don't know him. Unless you're in his inner circle, you're not going to meet him.

By Tom Somach

Gambling 911 Staff Writer

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